Thursday, April 17, 2008

They've All Gone Crazy!

As I have mentioned before, it is currently spring in Arizona, my favorite time of year. (I do really love summer as well, I am one of about 12 people who live in this state that actually enjoys the triple digit temperatures). With spring comes absolutely glorious weather, beautiful desert blossoms, itchy eyes and runny noses, and a classroom full of three year olds that have gone absolutely bonkers.

And for whatever reason, every year I am completely unprepared, even though once it happens, I say, “Well, it’s spring.“

My job as a teacher of three year olds is to get them ready for the big school. And by get them ready, I mean get them ready socially and emotionally. As my director says, “Once they are able to navigate successfully among their peers, they become sponges for learning.”

We spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year learning how to be a good friend. We learn that just because you want something doesn’t mean you can grab it from your friend’s hand. Then bonk her over the head with it for good measure. We learn that sharing doesn’t mean you get the toy NOW. Sharing is waiting until the friend is done with his turn. We learn that hitting is not an effective way to communicate your frustration. Nor is spitting, biting or pinching. We learn that when you get that funny feeling, you go to the potty - not simply drop your pants wherever you happen to be standing (boys - it is not how we water the garden!)

One of the most rewarding things about teaching this age is watching them internalize all the tools we give them, and start to put them to use. I have a little girl this year who would spit or hit when she got mad at her friends. Not long ago, she came to me and said, “Jane took the doll out of my hand. I almost spit on her but then I decided that I should tell her that I wanted the doll back.” It is moments like this that show me that they are putting what I am trying to teach them to good use.

By March, I feel like I am on cruise control. The kids know how to handle themselves with their friends, and we are able to delve more seriously into academics. I was just about to start my unit on quantum physics, when the week started - the week where everything we had learned was forgotten, the week that caused me to sprout 100 new gray hairs (hello? Salon? Get the hair dye ready!), the week when they all went crazy. Behaviors that I hadn’t seen in 5 or 6 months reappeared, and caught me completely off guard…

“That's my toy!"

“He took my toy"

"She looked like she was about to take my toy so I slapped her ear!"

"I peed my pants"

“The garden needed water”

As I pulled a child down from the rafters from which she was swinging, I looked at the parent that was working in my classroom and together we said, “It’s spring!” I herded the wild animals that were formerly my class out the door and let them run free. Exactly what they needed.

I have started doing an informal research study. Is it just my class that goes crazy at this time of the year? Is there a fundamental flaw in my teaching style? Preliminary findings indicate no. On the day I took my class outside early, the rest of the school was on the playground as well, the teachers draped over various playground structures looking a little dazed. My son’s first grade teacher says his class is also reverting back to beginning of the year behavior. (Actually, he said “your son” as opposed to “his class”, but if I use the entire class in my data pool, the results end up that much more in my favor.). A friend of mine teaches junior high. Her students go a little wild this time of year also - except their behavior is more along the lines of belly shirts and barely there shorts with thongs showing over the top. Yikes. I’ll take peeing in the garden over that anytime.

The week from hell has passed, and the kids are back on track. I did scrap the quantum physics unit in favor of insects, and fun is being had by all.

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